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NIHR welcomes new vision for the Future of UK Clinical Research Delivery

Published: 23 March 2021

NIHR and partner organisations across the health research ecosystem have today welcomed the publication of a bold and ambitious vision for the future of clinical research delivery in the UK.

This UK-wide vision sets out the ambition to create a patient-centred, pro-innovation and data-enabled clinical research environment, which empowers everyone across the health service to participate in delivering research and enables people across the country to take part in research that is of relevance to them.

The vision has been developed through the cross-sector Recovery, Resilience and Growth programme, with NIHR working alongside the NHS, regulators, medical research charities, life sciences industry, the UK government and devolved administrations.

Matt Hancock, Health and Social Care Secretary, said:

By taking advantage of our world-renowned research expertise, and a strong partnership between business, academia, the NHS and government, we are determined to make the UK the best possible place to carry out clinical research that will improve the health of people here and across the world.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into sharp focus the strength and importance of the UK’s research base. Everyone has played their part in the national research effort - including researchers, healthcare professionals, those who organise and manage the research system and, above all, patients and the public. Through rapid delivery of platform clinical trials, like RECOVERY, REMAP-CAP, and PRINCIPLE, and with over 1 million participants having now taken part in clinical research across the country, the UK has reaffirmed its position as a global leader in clinical research, which is ultimately our lifeline back to normality.

Many researchers and research organisations have worked hard throughout the pandemic to answer critical research questions. We must acknowledge the huge impact this will have had on researchers and say thank you. NIHR and partners are continuing their social media thank you campaign using the #ResearchVsCovid

Dr William van’t Hoff, Chief Executive of the NIHR Clinical Research Network, said:

Our learning from the pandemic shows that embedding clinical research within the NHS is achievable and delivers both for patients as well as for the NHS. Through implementation of this vision, more healthcare professionals will be able to become involved in research, improving care and benefiting patients across the country.

Saving and improving lives

There are important lessons from the pandemic about where the UK can improve for all clinical research.

The vision has five key themes which underpin the improvements that will be taken forward in the coming months and years.

  • Clinical research embedded in the NHS
  • Patient-centred research
  • Streamlined, efficient and innovative research
  • Research enabled by data and digital tools
  • A sustainable and supported research workforce

To make the vision a reality, several key areas for action have been identified that will unleash the true potential of the UK’s clinical research environment. More information about the themes and areas for action are detailed in the vision document Saving and Improving Lives: The Future of UK Clinical Research Delivery.

Work is continuing to recover the UK’s diverse portfolio of clinical research and, building on the lessons learned from COVID-19, to create a research delivery environment which is patient-centred, pro-innovation and digitally-enabled.

Innovation in research design, set-up and delivery, supported by use of new technology, will enable research to be delivered more efficiently, freeing up researchers to work on the research that really needs their involvement. NIHR has already demonstrated how using innovatively designed virtual trials and digital technology can lead to rapid recruitment.

Similarly, digitisation and better use of data will also help to reduce the pressure on researchers and healthcare staff. By transforming research delivery through digital innovation, time and money can be saved, whilst empowering researchers to work together effectively.

Crucially, making access and participation in research as easy as possible for everyone across the UK, including rural, diverse and under-served populations will result in more patient-centred research.

Implementing the vision and next steps

NIHR is working with the other partner organisations and the devolved administrations on delivery plans. These include improvements that can be factored into immediate plans to recover the UK’s research portfolio as the pressures of COVID-19 ease, and longer term work to strengthen the UK’s research system as a whole.


The future of UK clinical research delivery vision Press release: UK government sets out bold vision for the future of clinical research delivery

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